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Jacks battle hard only to find themselves on the brink

Wellesley Applejacks head coach Brad Gerber says the team isn’t going down without a fight.

The Jacks faced off against the top-ranked Ayr Centennials three times last weekend. They were defeated each time, but pushed the first two games into overtime – a first for Wellesley versus Ayr. (The potential deciding game four was set for Wednesday night, after the Observer went to press.)

“It’s been quite the weekend. And it all happened in such a hurry, too,” Gerber said.

In the first game against Ayr last Thursday, the Jacks were first on the scoreboard with a power play goal from Jackson Keller, assisted by Nick Palmer in the first. Ayr didn’t tie it up until late in the second with a goal from Riley Clipper. It was helped in by Jake Whibbs and Jordan Pettitt.

Alex Uttley scored a power play marker in the third, helped by Shaun Pickering, to give Wellesley the lead. But with less than 90 seconds remaining, Clipper scored his second of the night for the Centennials to send the game into overtime.

Whibbs and Quinn Diamond picked up the assists.

The Jacks weren’t able to find the back of the net in overtime though, and Ayr’s Mitch Klie scored to give them the 3-2 win and the 1-0 lead in the series. Connor MacLean and Cole Cummings assisted the game-winning goal.

“I thought the guys came out more than ready. We played a perfect game, three periods. Obviously they scored late in the third to tie it up 2-2. I thought it was a perfect game on our part, on the road, game one. No doubt at all even though we lost 3-2 in overtime, overall very pleased with their effort,” Gerber said.

On home ice on Saturday the Jacks battled hard to play into overtime, but were again unable to secure a win, falling 4-3.

Braidon Kerbs scored for the Jacks to get things rolling in the first, assisted by Brady Gerber and Spencer Brick.

Ayr returned the favour with two goals of their own to round out the first 20 minutes. Cash Seraphim scored the goals, with Ben Roelofson, Matt Harding, Tyler Harrison, and Diamond picking up the assists.

Clipper increased the lead for the Centennials with a shorthanded goal in the second, helped by Carver Ormiston.

Confusion ensued in the second period when Uttley scored for the Jacks. The goal was called back as the referees said he was supposed to be out on penalties for 12 minutes, but he returned to the ice after two. He received a roughing penalty and an inciting an opponent misconduct.

“What the officials told us on the bench or what the officials told our captain and our captain relayed to us is totally different than what they said later, than what they had called. They had said only one person’s supposed to be in the box and we only had one person in the box. And then the linesman came over and said we had the wrong guy in the box, so we did what the linesman told us to do and then everyone knows what happened after that. Alex scores his goal, the referees announce the goal to the timekeeper, who scored it. They should have recognized right there and stopped the play if they would have known #15 was supposed to be in the box. But they didn’t. Play resumed again for another three minutes and then they decided to change the goal,” Gerber said.

Jacks GM Bill Grebinski called the OHA on it, but they said they go by what’s put on the game sheet and it was supposed to be Uttley in the box. The OHA can’t go by hearsay.

“I know, as the coach, what I was told, and what I was told is not what it says on that game sheet,” Gerber said.

Wellesley fought to stay in the game in the third, with Brick (Scott Martin), and Brenden Goran (Nick Mercier, Pickering) scoring to tie the game 3-3.

They both racked up plenty of time in the box with 64 minutes for Ayr to Wellesley’s 62.

“I will give them credit. After taking that goal away it was 3-1 again and the boys came back. Talk about playing through adversity. We’re very, very proud of them,” Gerber said.

In overtime, the Jacks couldn’t hold on and Ayr’s Schaefer (Seraphim) scored to take the overtime win.

Taking Ayr to overtime two games in a row is nothing to shake your head at though for the Jacks.

“It’s definitely an accomplishment for us, considering where we are and where they are as teams. But it’s very disappointing that we could have won one of those at least. Not disappointed in our effort. The boys worked so hard and I feel bad for them that they didn’t get at least a win out of one of the two because we definitely deserved it I thought,” Gerber said.

In Ayr the following afternoon for game three, the Jacks just ran out of steam, Gerber said.

Mitch Klie (Seraphim, Harding) and Seraphim (Harrison, Schaefer) gave Ayr a 2-0 lead in the first. Wellesley gained some momentum early in the second with a power play marker from Pickering, assisted by Mercier and Gerber.

Klie (Harrison, Roelofson) and Diamond (Cummings, Harrison) gave the Centennials a 4-1 lead to finish off the second.

“Being down 3-0 against Ayr, our backs are against the wall. But one thing we have learned about this team, we’ve gone through a lot this year as a team, adversity. This team will never quit,” Gerber said.

A shorthanded goal from the Jacks’ Goran (Mercier) 23 seconds into the final frame was the last time Wellesley would change the scoreboard. Ayr put back three more goals to take the game 7-2. Nolan Ferris, Klie, and Roelofson were the goal scorers, with Harding, Harrison (2), Connor MacLean, and Seraphim helping.

He says they try to remind the guys to keep an even keel and he thought they did an excellent job of that.

“I think we opened their eyes up. Even the last game of the season they recognized we’ve made a move up the standings, we were an improved team. I still don’t think we had their full respect. I think after the first two games they knew they were going to be in a series and they knew they had to play their hockey as well to beat us. I think we took them by surprise a little bit,” Gerber said.

The Wellesley Applejacks battled back after Alex Uttley’s goal was called back on Saturday, but eventually fell to the Ayr Centennials 4-3 in overtime. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The Wellesley Applejacks battled back after Alex Uttley’s goal was called back on Saturday, but eventually fell to the Ayr Centennials 4-3 in overtime. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

He says the team has been working hard during the playoffs, but not getting the breaks.

The game definitely got heated on both sides as Ayr finished the game with 61 minutes, and Wellesley had a whopping 95. The biggest challenge was refocusing the boys after two tough losses. But for 40 minutes, Gerber says they competed.

“We played hard. I thought we just ran out of gas. We got a little undisciplined as well,” Gerber said.

Ayr and Wellesley faced off for game four in Wellesley on Wednesday night. The Jacks needed to win in order to continue the series, otherwise their season is finished.

“We’re definitely not going to down easy. I know the guys will come out and play. We’ll see what happens. They won’t pack it in, that’s for sure. They have too much pride,” Gerber said.

Of their 23 players, 22 are eligible to return next year. Team captain Justin Lebold will age out.

“I would love to see all 22 of those players come back. It just goes to show what kind of team we are because we are young and we’ve done very well for being such a young team this year,” Gerber said.

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